Storm Queen aka This is 40

I used to get embarrassed for folks who were all, “It’s my birfday!  We gotta go out for my birfday!”  I was like, “You turning 38, don’t act thirsty for a bouncy house or a tiara.  Have several seats and act grown!”

Living in the age of social media, I see more stories of lives taken too soon and those asking for prayer for health problems.  So, as I get older, fully FEELING how everyday is a gift, I want to celebrate everything. (And I repent my previous years of judging the birthday-thirsty).

Though I didn’t get a chance to reflect some more about my big 4-0 (beyond the previous blog post written when I was a tender 39) or set any goals for the new decade, I wanted to share a couple favorite moments.

My 10/4 (4×10) birthday landed on Rosh Hashanah, on day two of two consecutive school holidays after the weekend celebration of Ellis’ 4th birthday. His casual school party, World’s Maker Faire, Ellis’ Bowlmageddon Party, then two days dedicated to me.

Kevin took two days off and drove us to one of my fave spots on the eve of my birthday.  Storm King:  one of the world’s leading sculpture parks in the lower Hudson Valley, about an hour north of NYC.  (We also stopped by the tiny Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens on my actual birthday the next day, but that was a drive-by half-hour visit, after dropping by the gorgeous waterfront Costco in LIC next door, before escaping the city again).

Being outdoors in nature is one of the most life-giving gifts for this California gal.  I would love to hike and swim all year long, nekked if I could.  The boys took me to Storm King so that I can trade in all that car-honking in Queens for some geese-honking.  (Actually, even the geese of Storm King were very quiet.)


We took a 40-minute shuttle ride around the grounds.  While it was lovely, it was not restful or peaceful because I sat next to Ellis the Clown who would exclaim after placing various objects on my body, “Mommy, guess wha-a-at?  You have a rock on your shoulder!  Why don’t you pretend to throw it?  ahahahahahah you still have a rock on your shoulder!  Mommy, do you think I’m going to throw this bottle out or do you think I’m going to just pretend?  Litterbug or just pretend?”

So I had to monitor this charming but handful of a dude.  Later, Kevin wanted to gift me with a solitary ride in the same shuttle.  “Hey, you loved riding alone last time.  You have to do it again.  If you run, you can catch the last one and I’ll take these fools around to wrestle on the grass.”

I was torn for a second because I wanted to spend every moment with my morsels on my last day of being 39 (yes, I am SUPER sentimental).  But I caught a front row seat on the shuttle, all by myself.

As the shuttle took off, I heard, “MOMMY MOMMY!” coming from a tower.  I looked up and saw my three boys, Small, Medium and Large, sending me off on my 40 minutes of solo time.  They were beaming and waving at me from behind the trees, like I was going off to Seoul to teach English for a year rather than just 40 minutes away.

Naturally, I waved back like a maniac and teared up, thinking about how close we are as a family, perhaps due to the very thing that grieves me, the lack of an extended family village.  Also, memories came gushing forth, memories of when I was a 100% stay-at-home mom for a full 4.5 years, those years of being each others’ planets.

And now look at them, my emoji comedian who can moonlight as a food inspector as he WILL find even the smallest hair in any takeout order or couch cushion, my observant and profound MLK, who says things that make my mouth drop to the floor (“I still dream of Nepal, Mommy.  What’s going on over there now?”) and my husband, my biggest supporter and encourager, who also says things that make me go WHAT!?…(“Hey, so I’m not gonna wear shorts any more because I saw Pitbull.  THAT dude looks SO cool in his suits, like he would never ever be caught dead wearing shorts.  It’s just beneath him.”)

During my 37-minute shuttle ride, I relished in the quiet, thanked God over and over again for my gifts, and lifted up a few prayers for my new decade.  As we drove past the last few sculptures, I saw some masterpieces GALLOP past me!

It was my family, about to climb one of the viewing towers as we shuttlers watched.  The boys shyly waved at me.

It was a perfect moment I hope to replay over and over again.  This shuttle taking me around to each giant monument on the 500 acres was perfect for my 40th as I remembered the monuments in my own life, and admired the three greatest ones, now literally on display for me to gaze at.



Micah sitting on nickels



10.4.16 Socrates Sculpture Park






Christopher Walken heads at Socrates




This is 39

Something about this dreary, (sideways-) rain day shoved me back in front of my dusty laptop.  Add to that dramatic rain, Ellis is turning 4 tomorrow and I turn 40 on 10.4.

Wow, I haven’t just declared it like that until now.

Fitting birthdate as I will have lived 10 decades (x 4) come 10.4, Lord willing.

When friendlier neighbors ask my young morsels how old they are and I answer for them in whole numbers, they are quick to add, “AND A HALF!” or “But ALMOST six!” or “Almost four!”

On the other hand, there’s they Mama who enters her age on the elliptical machine more covertly than she enters her ATM PIN.  (And for her weight, ‘bows be out).

When did this happen?  I am open and honest to a fault but now, I hear myself lecture, “Micah, you don’t have to announce Mommy’s age when we’re walking on the sidewalk, talking about how Mommy is the oldest in our family so I should walk closest to the street to protect everyone.  I mean, I’m not ashamed of my age or anything but some information is not for sharing with everyone.”

And I started using vague phrases like, “pretty big birthday coming up” even to acquaintances who already know that I won’t be turning a milestone 30 or 50.

The number is a lot to wrap my mind around.  I loved my 30s.  Even the word “thirty” sounds cute to me whereas “forty” with that leading “f” sounds too strong and overbearing.  I was 30 when I got married, 34 when I had #1, and three days shy of 36 when I had #2, the same ages Michelle Obama, my crush, was when she had her kids.

As my baby son turns four tomorrow and I turn 40 a few days after, I feel emotional about saying goodbye to my Three Year Old baby, and goodbye to my 30s.

[Dear 30s, you were my most fulfilling decade thus far.  I love you.  You were a blessing beyond my technicolor dreams, though not without valleys.  As I stare 40 in the face, I am overcome with gratitude for you.]

I try to be grateful, even on the days I have to force myself to be in light of certain challenges in our lives.  Not because I am naturally positive or holy (ahahahaha loaded word) but because I know gratitude engenders good health.

Lately, it felt different from head-knowledge-gratitude.  I’ve been FEELING so grateful that I’ve wanted to raise my hands to the heavens while walking down Queens Blvd.

And God used the things I usually cannot FEEL grateful for.

One – our too small apartment and too small kitchen.  Due to an emergency gas leak, our building turned off our cooking gas, oven, and laundry for nearly two months this past summer.  While I tried to remind myself that we are still among the most comfortable on this entire globe, it sucked.

Two months was a long time.  I forgot what stovetop fire looked like.  When I went to a friend’s house for a playdate and she turned on her stove, all casual like it wasn’t no thang, the fire looked crazy, all that blue and orange coming out of a cube, like we were in a sci-fi movie.

And when the fire re-emerged on our very own white stove, I jumped back like a cave woman, held the kids back, in awe.  While I am still praying for wide open spaces, thank you LORD for the miracle of fire in our small kitchen.

Two – the subway.  I can devote a whole Instagram account, if I had one, to subway experiences and observations.

The other day, during the crowded morning commute while we all tried to funnel our way in, I saw a Latina mama wearing her newborn daughter, with her older son, maybe around 10 or 11, alongside her on the platform.  As crowd sardined our way in, I gestured for the son to come closer and get past me so he wouldn’t lose his mom and sister.  They got settled in and he began gazing at his baby sister.

THE LOOK ON THAT BOY’S FACE?  It made me tear up.  How much love he had for his new sister, this new human being who had just entered his life.

That moment felt divine, downright HOLY, even as the subway made its usual delay announcements and my nostrils tried to identify different body odors and my hand squirmed for a piece of the pole.

My friend who is going through a major health hurdle told me that she started an album on her phone called “Reminders of God” as friends send her different inspirational nuggets.

As I join the 40 club, I am going to search more consistently for reminders of Him.  It won’t be hard because they are everywhere.

Thank you Lord for my (nearly) 40 years.  And thank You for the Peanuts movie on HBO Demand which kept the boys quiet while I cranked out this post.





Holidays and Emotional Fireworks

When I struggle emotionally, I’m prone to feel like a freak, utterly unrelatable, like no one else suffers from my particular malady, be it anger explosions or self-loathing or battling envy.

And man, what is up with the holidays and emotion overload?  I swear I start off excited to enjoy a special holiday with my family but many times, I sabotage my own happiness.

On Friday night before Fourth of July Monday, we set off for K’s mom’s house in CT.  During the tornado watch.  But we didn’t just set off as easily as that prior sentence sounds.  I only worked on Monday so that I can be with the kids the rest of the week after M’s school let out Tuesday at noon .  We kept active and social with playground runs, a trip to MoMA, and playdates, but by Friday, I was feeling agitated.  Spent.

When K got home that night, I was already in a mood.  I was taking the boys’ not listening too personally.  Also, unbeknownst to me, I was nervous about our CT weekend, an emotional minefield.  We hadn’t seen his brother’s family in too long so I became nervous and also subconsciously flashbacked to how unsafe I had felt with these in-laws in the past (though we are now pleasant with each other the few times we meet up, thank you Lawd).

During a jog around the neighborhood after K got home to relieve me, the damn sabotage cycle commenced.

My thought balloon formed as I jogged: “Why can’t I just stay home?  That way, I don’t have to feel nervous and not be all self-conscious about how to do my face while on this other planet called Greenwich.  It doesn’t have to be terrible like when K and I had a huge fight on a previous holiday and they actually left without me.  Why can’t I calmly just state that I am sorry to cancel but I will be taking three days for myself, without it turning into drama?”

But I knew I was wrong.  I had agreed to this CT weekend weeks ago and part of our recurring fight cycle is that for holidays, emotions overwhelm me and I want to bone out, when most of the time, word is bond for me and I do NOT flake.

I have open wounds about living across the country from my own family and friends for almost every holiday, previous holiday sabotaging and fight cycles, childhood wounds and all sorts of lovely shit.

Only in hindsight, as in NOW, as I write this four days later, I realize that I wanted K to connect and engage me after my tough day with the kids.  Instead, because he does not get as emotionally overwhelmed when taking care of them (he advises that I learn to tune them out sometimes), he does not fully know how to connect with me when I am pissy about a bad afternoon with them.  Pissy because I feel like I failed, pissy because I feel like I’m not the more patient version of myself from just a few years ago.

And he also wants to give me space to breathe.  I want that too but I also want him to come alongside me and help me untangle my feelings.

So when I said I may stay back, I think I wanted him to affirm me.  I wanted him to say, “You can gift yourself with some Me Time next week, I assure you, but this holiday weekend, I beg of you, to please join us because *we are not the same without you.*  We need you.  You bring a fun spirit to our family and make everything more magical.  I know you are feeling nervous about CT and I understand, but I will not abandon you or leave you to otherwise fend for yourself if you feelin’ unsafe…”  (BECAUSE YES, DON’T ALL MEN SPEAK JUST LIKE OPRAH?)

To K’s credit, he did try to cobble together a version of this statement but he also got frustrated when we started squabbling and said what I could not take at the time:  “Don’t worry, we will be JUST FINE without you.  No problem.  You will just regret not coming because you love to be out in nature and you will miss out on your kids.”

I was hurt so I lashed out, “FINE?!  NO PROB?!  MISS OUT ON NATURE?!  Oh, don’t worry about me!  I can get with some nature all by my damn self while you guys are just fine without me in CT!  AND I AM SO FUN.  I BRING THE FUN TO THIS FAMILY.”  (See?  When I don’t get affirmed, I start affirming myself but also insulting K, who is pretty damn fun.)

So many times, my emotional response is to skip Sadness and land on Anger.  Sadness feels like it could crack me wide open.  Sadness feels like I have no power.  Anger deceives me into thinking I have power in the explosive fireworks I unleash.

After much delay, we got on the road late at night.  Not all was well but at least I was able to get in the car this time.   I felt like a failure for keeping the boys waiting as we fought, and now that M is bigger, he even started imploring me to join them on the CT trip and laying out reasons why I should go.  It hurt my heart to hear him try to persuade me.

Going forward, I need to be able to VULNERABLY take a risk and say, “K, I am feeling all kinds of things re CT especially after a tough afternoon with the boys.  Can you please remind me of why I should go and also why I am needed in this family, though you seem to be able to handle it all without me?”

But OMG, who can speak like that?!  I think I am a very raw and vulnerable person but to ask exactly for what you need emotionally!?  It feels like I am giving him ALL THE ANSWERS on the Scantron test so all the correct “answers” are cheating.

To be continued…I hope?  Maybe.  (Because I gotta write about Saturday, too).


bonding with Daddy’s friend’s family


I’m so glad I went.


Look what washed up in Madison, CT!

P.S.  In this age of social media, I need to remind those who are struggling during the holidays to know that the perfect red-white-and-blue photos are only part of the story.  Beautiful memories WERE created but there are demons to slay to get to the Kodak moments.  At least with me and my family.



06.16.16 Meantime Marvel

Yesterday, a local mama and LA mama friend wrote me on 06.16.16, remembering my date fetish that officially started with my 07.07.07 nuptials.  One asked where my 06.16.16 post at so here it is, J!  Thanks for the query, kekeke.

I had noted the triple 6 date but didn’t get excited because I don’t like 6s.  When I see that many 6s, I gotta look down at my nails and shift my gaze.  I did get tickled that catchy dates made my friends holla.

I had a routine dentist appointment this morning and she informed me that I had broken a tooth.  She was sure that it was from grinding or clenching my teeth (even with my nightguard in)!  As I type this sentence, I can feel the jaw pain from the clenching I must be doing in my sleep.

Can’t help but wonder if my clenching has gotten worse considering the devastating news in the world, namely in Orlando, FL this past week alone.

On June 10th, a singer by the name of Christina Grimmie was shot and killed while signing autographs for her fans.

On June 12th, early Sunday, a gunman slaughtered 49 people at a gay nightclub, injuring at least 53 others.  Deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

On June 15th, the body of a two year-old boy, Lane Graves, was found intact after being carried off by an alligator outside Disney’s Grand Floridian resort.

All in Orlando within the past seven days.

And the blessing and curse of social media is that our eyes and ears are everywhere, even beyond the big news stories like Orlando, including recent kidnappings and children getting hurt out of nowhere.

I absorb all of this.  And I clench.

I am ever more vigilant.  I lecture the boys numerous times daily about not walking behind me but walking in front of me where I can see them clearly.  I even demonstrated what could happen if they continue to walk behind me but they enjoyed the dramatic snatch-demonstration too much:  “Do it again to me, Mommy.”

Excuse the clumsy transition as I have to eat lunch now but our family is in a season of life where we are awaiting next steps.  Blessed and intact but also hoping for change.

I heard a sermon yesterday called “Meantime.”  How sometimes we just want to know what’s up next and when we can get goin’ on Next and when He will provide for our immediate future, the prayers we been lifting up.  But then we end up treating the present like an afterthought:  “Man, I can’t wait ’til ______….in the meantime (sigghhhh)…” and poor Meantime is treated like some neglected stepchild (sermon by Toure Roberts).

The tragic events of this past week have made me extra thankful for my Meantime.

Though waiting on Him to answer prayers, I am pausing to memorialize our 06.16.16 Meantime, which included a Morsel-y Mundane Marvel of a Moment where our whole family stumbled upon an ant colony during an evening walk together after dinner.  We squealed, poked sticks and wondered aloud.  I then went for a jog so I can watch the sky.

The lives lost in Orlando made me realize all over again that we Moms just want our kids to be one thing, fine, two things when they grow up:  alive and well, and the rest is all noise.

Thank You, Lord, that I get to have a Meantime.

Rest in Peace to those lives lost in Orlando this past week.  You will not be forgotten.


I love big signs and I cannot lie.

Little signs too.  Anything, really.

I think I’ve always been this way.  Just like I’ve always loved stories and books and letters.

Signs help me keep the faith.

Kevin and I were in the midst of a huge blowout fight while at a Mets game.  I felt like I was the only weirdo in the stadium who just could not have a good time despite the phenomenal weather and being at my husband’s happy place.  This ridiculous fight that only kept spiraling.

Do others go through this, too?  When we have the rare child-free few hours, a lot of sh*t comes to light, maybe because we don’t have to censor ourselves any more?

Anyways, I called my best friend and said, “Let’s not even talk about this.  No need for commentary especially since you’re just gonna make fun of me.  Just pray for me, fool.  It’s like I’m determined to sabotage this day!  Why do I do this!?”

After laughing at me per usual, she prayed, “Please, Lord, may a friendly face in the crowds somehow minister to Jihee while she is upset.”

Minutes later, I run into our younger-than-us pastor, a Mets fanatic just like Kevin.  I wish I could report back that Kevin and I were able to salvage our Mets vs Dodgers afternoon but I would be lying.  We continued to fight so much that I told Kevin that we should at least fight in Korean in case folks live-Tweet our escalating exchange.

[And the irony is not lost on me that the game was Mets (Kevin) vs. Dodgers (LA/Jihee)].

Despite our horrible afternoon, when I find myself doubting or just feeling alone, I like to recall signs, or small answers to prayer, like running into our pastor immediately after my friend prayed for a friendly face.

Sometimes the signs are beautiful:  I was jogging and asking for forgiveness for lashing out in anger yet again and suddenly, I saw a cardinal fly onto someone’s porch.

I loved it.  What a gift.  Pigeons, robins, and even morning doves are more common in my NYC neighborhood but rarely do I get to behold a bright red cardinal.

Then another sign on the same morning as the cardinal.  I was about to step into the passenger seat of our mini-van to go to church after the cardinal-spotting jog, when I looked down at the wet road under my foot.  There was a gold heart smashed into the street.  Thank You, Lord.  Love, love, and more love when I needed it the most:  when I’m feeling like a failure for not having more control over my anger.

And yes, the words “Kate Spade” on the golden heart made it slightly less enchanting, but I choose to keep the sign free from commercialism please.  (Added bonus:  it was the morning of our friend’s baby sister’s wedding!)


Other times, it’s a Bible verse shared on Facebook or a Bible verse I happen to stumble on when looking up a Proverb matching the day of the month:

It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife. – Proverbs 21:19 (New Living Translation)

And sure, I know that sometimes I am too much on the hunt for signs, hoping that the notecard floating in the wind will land on that patch of grass and reveal a perfect, timely message for me, only to realize that it was a teen’s handwritten study note about amino acids.

Nevertheless, thank You for signs.  I will keep looking.


5.5 on 5.25

This is a time capsule letter for my firstborn, my GloWorm, our MLK,

I meant to write you a proper letter for your 5th birthday but now, you are already about to turn five-and-a-half on 5.25.

Today is your first day back at Kindergarden after missing three days last week, including your step-up ceremony.  You were hospitalized for asthma for two nights and two-and-a-half days after the doctor could not get your oxygen levels up, even though she had given you three back-to-back-to-back doses of albuterol and steroids.

When we heard that you had to go to the ER, we all reacted differently.

Daddy became even calmer.  He said he had to.

I started crying as Daddy pressed the elevator button with you in his arms, after he had packed a few things.  “My podoh-ahl [grape pulp], the last time you had to be in the hospital was when you were born.  I want you home and healthy!”

Ellis was still his funny self, asking for second dinner and for Mommy to play hide and seek because Mommy was so preoccupied.  I snapped at him that I need some quiet and that I was sad.  But at night, when he realized that you and Daddy weren’t going to be home, he said, “I’m going to punch the doctors in the face for taking my bruddah away.”

Micah, when you and Daddy weren’t here, even for just that first night when Daddy slept over at the hospital with you, the apartment just felt wrong!

I felt like my heart was outside my body, sleeping over at the Children’s Hospital, wheezing and struggling to breathe.

I even missed your whining, which usually drives me mad.  Actually, I didn’t miss your whining but I wished you were healthy ENOUGH to whine, in theory (where I could not hear you).

I wanted to crawl into your lungs and make them come correct, damnit.

On Friday morning, I called your dad to tell him that you most likely would not be discharged until the afternoon, so no use coming by in the early morning before heading out to the office.

Your dad said, “No, I just need to come by and see our whole family together.”

Your recent hospital stay reminded me of just how much we love you and how this family needs each member.  It also made me realize that on a universal level, one is beloved just by being born.  Not into a perfect family by any means, but by virtue of being born, you are beloved by someone or some ones.

Also made me think we need to recruit more family members but I digress.

I also remembered the times you left me breathless (oof, no pun intended), just by being you.

Like when we recently went on a spring break getaway to the Berkshires, Daddy and I were sitting in the hot tub with you guys, but beating ourselves up for forgetting to bring swim floaties.

“How we gonna forget swim floaties on a hotel-swim vacation?  Where is our head?”

Micah:  “How about we just thank God that we are here?”  (Word.  Schooled by our young son.)

Or when we went to hike to a waterfall on that same vacation, you and I were able to have the most special time, walking among the logs and dead leaves, and you said, “Mommy, you know when I just don’t listen to you?  That’s my bad.  I will do better.  I know it’s not easy.”

Or when we went away just to the nearby suburb of Plainview for Mother’s Day and we said we won’t have bedtimes and we were going to eat lots of chips even after dinner.  You grew very serious and said, “This is a big night, guys.”

Or when you were lying on top of me on a bench at the Museum of Natural History in LA and I said, “Oh, I wish I had my sunglasses!” and you said, “I’ll be your sunglasses,” as you covered my eyes with your still-small face.

That was my favorite moment of our most recent trip to LA because I know that soon you will be too grown to agree to lie down on top of me like a blanket so that I can cuddle you and caress your face and tell you how you is kind and you is beautiful and you is beloved.

I even addressed that with you again, during our special hike to the waterfall, about how our relationship will change as you grow older and you answered in your usual thoughtful and literal manner.

“Mommy, when I turn into a man and you keep wanting to hug me, and you said I won’t want to hug you as much, I will at least stand there so that you can hug me.  And of course, I will visit you – my kids have to play with you!”

Thank you for getting better and breathing better today.

Thank you for joining our family and being exactly who you are, even though you prefer your Daddy these days.  And now is not the time to blow up your spot by including other less precious moments when we are butting heads down Queens Blvd.

FullSizeRender (1)

I love how you instinctively grabbed my wrist so that I won’t slide down.

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growing up before my eyes – hiking in North Adams, MA

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you said you didn’t know how much you actually missed ellis until he was able to visit you once you got transferred from the intermediary ICU to the regular ward

E’s Notable Quotables

I’ve been taking a break from blogging for various reasons but I’m back for this drive-by post just so I can preserve precious moments.

I mean to write them all down in my journal but it seems like I am more willing to type it out if in blog form.

Both my boys crack me up daily.

Here are a couple notable quotables from the mouth of my nearly three-and-a-half year old Ellis:

Before hitting up the playground after school, the boys scootered as I chased after them to the Japanese market in our ‘hood so that we can pick up a few onigiri (rice balls in the shape of triangles, covered with dried seaweed).

When I noticed that only the spicy ones were still available that late afternoon, I announced to the boys that the non-spicy onigiri were all gone.

E’s round eyes got even bigger as his tulip mouth pursed seriously, and he exclaimed, “Call the police!”


Ellis started a bad habit only this week, of trying to stay up past their bedtime.  We did not want to give in so we started resorting to dirty tactics when we saw him trying to sneak out of their shared room right before our eyes.

“Hey, Daddy!  Let’s get ready to watch monsters on the TV.  In the DARK like a movie theater!” (me trying to prey on his current fears)

Ellis:  I know you guys are trying to trick me.  That is NOT nice.

One more:

On the way home from church, I was explaining to Micah:

“Being smart is so relative.  Some people are blessed to be smart in one way, while other people are smart in another way.  You should never feel bad because someone else, like a classmate, seems smarter than you, because you probably smarter than them in another way.

Also, you should never show off about your smarts, either, because in life, you will always meet people who are smarter than you.”

Ellis, from the carseat next to Big Brother’s:  “Like me.”

And that’s all for today.  I hope to stay awake for Grey’s Anatomy and ease on into weekend mode early on this Thursday night.